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Open access

Bettina Geidl-Flueck and Philipp A Gerber

Despite the existence of numerous studies supporting a pathological link between fructose consumption and the development of the metabolic syndrome and its sequelae, such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), this link remains a contentious issue. With this article, we shed a light on the impact of sugar/fructose intake on hepatic de novo lipogenesis (DNL), an outcome parameter known to be dysregulated in subjects with type 2 diabetes and/or NAFLD. In this review, we present findings from human intervention studies using physiological doses of sugar as well as mechanistic animal studies. There is evidence from both human and animal studies that fructose is a more potent inducer of hepatic lipogenesis than glucose. This is most likely due to the liver’s prominent physiological role in fructose metabolism, which may be disrupted under pathological conditions by increased hepatic expression of fructolytic and lipogenic enzymes. Increased DNL may not only contribute to ectopic fat deposition (i.e. in the liver), but it may also impair several metabolic processes through DNL-related fatty acids (e.g. beta-cell function, insulin secretion, or insulin sensitivity).

Open access

J N Zamarbide Losada, E Sulpice, S Combe, G S Almeida, D A Leach, J Choo, L Protopapa, M P Hamilton, S McGuire, X Gidrol, C L Bevan, and C E Fletcher

Breast cancer (BC) is the most diagnosed cancer in women worldwide. In estrogen receptor (ER)-positive disease, anti-estrogens and aromatase inhibitors (AI) improve patient survival; however, many patients develop resistance. Dysregulation of apoptosis is a common resistance mechanism; thus, agents that can reinstate the activity of apoptotic pathways represent promising therapeutics for advanced drug-resistant disease. Emerging targets in this scenario include microRNAs (miRs). To identify miRs modulating apoptosis in drug-responsive and -resistant BC, a high-throughput miR inhibitor screen was performed, followed by high-content screening microscopy for apoptotic markers. Validation demonstrated that miR-361-3p inhibitor significantly increases early apoptosis and reduces proliferation of drug-responsive (MCF7), plus AI-/antiestrogen-resistant derivatives (LTED, TamR, FulvR), and ER- cells (MDA-MB-231). Importantly, proliferation-inhibitory effects were observed in vivo in a xenograft model, indicating the potential clinical application of miR-361-3p inhibition. RNA-seq of tumour xenografts identified FANCA as a direct miR-361-3p target, and validation suggested miR-361-3p inhibitor effects might be mediated in part through FANCA modulation. Moreover, miR-361-3p inhibition resulted in p53-mediated G1 cell cycle arrest through activation of p21 and reduced BC invasion. Analysis of publicly available datasets showed miR-361-3p expression is significantly higher in primary breast tumours vspaired normal tissue and is associated with decreased overall survival. In addition, miR-361-3p inhibitor treatment of BC patient explants decreased levels of miR-361-3p and proliferation marker, Ki67. Finally, miR-361-3p inhibitor showed synergistic effects on BC growth when combined with PARP inhibitor, Olaparib. Together, these studies identify miR-361-3p inhibitor as a potential new treatment for drug-responsive and -resistant advanced BC.

Open access

Shiho Fujisaka, Yoshiyuki Watanabe, and Kazuyuki Tobe

The human body is inhabited by numerous bacteria, fungi, and viruses, and each part has a unique microbial community structure. The gastrointestinal tract harbors approximately 100 trillion strains comprising more than 1000 bacterial species that maintain symbiotic relationships with the host. The gut microbiota consists mainly of the phyla Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, Proteobacteria, and Actinobacteria. Of these, Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes constitute 70–90% of the total abundance. Gut microbiota utilize nutrients ingested by the host, interact with other bacterial species, and help maintain healthy homeostasis in the host. In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that a breakdown of the microbial structure and its functions, known as dysbiosis, is associated with the development of allergies, autoimmune diseases, cancers, and arteriosclerosis, among others. Metabolic diseases, such as obesity and diabetes, also have a causal relationship with dysbiosis. The present review provides a brief overview of the general roles of the gut microbiota and their relationship with metabolic disorders.

Open access

Vicki Chen, Gia V. Shelp, Jacob L. Schwartz, Niklas D.j. Aardema, Madison L. Bunnell, and Clara E. Cho

Micronutrients consumed in excess or imbalanced amounts during pregnancy may increase the risk of metabolic diseases in offspring but the mechanisms underlying these effects are unknown. Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT), a multifunctional indoleamine in the brain and the gut, may have key roles regulating metabolism. We investigated the effects of gestational micronutrient intakes on the central and peripheral serotonergic systems as modulators of the offspring metabolic phenotypes. Pregnant Wistar rats were fed an AIN-93G diet with 1-fold recommended vitamins (RV), high 10-fold multivitamins (HV), high 10-fold folic acid with recommended choline (HFolRC) or high 10-fold folic acid with no choline (HFolNC). Male and female offspring were weaned to a high-fat RV diet for 12 weeks. We assessed the central function using the 5-HT2C receptor agonist, 1-(3-chlorophenyl)piperazine (mCPP), and found that male offspring from the HV- or HFolRC-fed dams were less responsive (P<0.05) whereas female HFolRC offspring were more responsive to mCPP (P<0.01) at 6 weeks post-weaning. Male and female offspring from the HV and HFolNC groups, and male HFolRC offspring had greater food intake (males P<0.001; females P<0.001) and weight gain (males P<0.0001; females P<0.0001), elevated colon 5-HT (males P<0.01; females P<0.001) and fasting glucose concentrations (males P<0.01; females P<0.01) as well as body composition toward obesity (males P<0.01; females P<0.01) at 12 weeks post-weaning. Colon 5-HT was correlated with fasting glucose concentrations (males R2=0.78, P<0.0001; females R2=0.71, P<0.0001). Overall, the serotonergic systems are sensitive to the composition of gestational micronutrients, with alterations consistent with metabolic disturbances in offspring.

Open access

Eva M G Viho, Jan Kroon, Richard A Feelders, René Houtman, Elisabeth S R van den Dungen, Alberto M Pereira, Hazel J Hunt, Leo J Hofland, and Onno C Meijer

Glucocorticoid stress hormones are produced in response to hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis activation. Glucocorticoids are essential for physiology and exert numerous actions via binding to the glucocorticoid receptor (GR). Relacorilant is a highly selective GR antagonist currently undergoing a phase 3 clinical evaluation for the treatment of endogenous Cushing’s syndrome. It was found that increases in serum adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and cortisol concentrations after relacorilant treatment were substantially less than the increases typically observed with mifepristone, but it is unclear what underlies these differences. In this study, we set out to further preclinically characterize relacorilant in comparison to the classical but non-selective GR antagonist mifepristone. In human HEK-293 cells, relacorilant potently antagonized dexamethasone- and cortisol-induced GR signaling, and in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells, relacorilant largely prevented the anti-inflammatory effects of dexamethasone. In mice, relacorilant treatment prevented hyperinsulinemia and immunosuppression caused by increased corticosterone exposure. Relacorilant treatment reduced the expression of classical GR target genes in peripheral tissues but not in the brain. In mice, relacorilant induced a modest disinhibition of the HPA axis as compared to mifepristone. In line with this, in mouse pituitary cells, relacorilant was generally less potent than mifepristone in regulating Pomc mRNA and ACTH release. This contrast between relacorilant and mifepristone is possibly due to the distinct transcriptional coregulator recruitment by the GR. In conclusion, relacorilant is thus an efficacious peripheral GR antagonist in mice with only modest disinhibition of the HPA axis, and the distinct properties of relacorilant endorse the potential of selective GR antagonist treatment for endogenous Cushing’s syndrome.

Open access

Stuart A Morgan, Laura L Gathercole, Zaki K Hassan-Smith, Jeremy Tomlinson, Paul M Stewart, and Gareth G Lavery

The aged phenotype shares several metabolic similarities with that of circulatory glucocorticoid excess (Cushing’s syndrome), including type 2 diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and myopathy. We hypothesise that local tissue generation of glucocorticoids by 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11β-HSD1), which converts 11-dehydrocorticosterone to active corticosterone in rodents (corticosterone to cortisol in man), plays a role in driving age-related chronic disease. In this study, we have examined the impact of ageing on glucocorticoid metabolism, insulin tolerance, adiposity, muscle strength, and blood pressure in both wildtype (WT) and transgenic male mice with a global deletion of 11β-HSD1 (11β-HSD1−/−) following 4 months high-fat feeding. We found that high fat-fed 11β-HSD1−/− mice were protected from age-related glucose intolerance and hyperinsulinemia when compared to age/diet-matched WTs. By contrast, aged 11β-HSD1−/− mice were not protected from the onset of sarcopenia observed in the aged WTs. Young 11β-HSD1−/− mice were partially protected from diet-induced obesity; however, this partial protection was lost with age. Despite greater overall obesity, the aged 11β-HSD1−/− animals stored fat in more metabolically safer adipose depots as compared to the aged WTs. Serum analysis revealed both WT and 11β-HSD1−/− mice had an age-related increase in morning corticosterone. Surprisingly, 11β-HSD1 oxo-reductase activity in the liver and skeletal muscle was unchanged with age in WT mice and decreased in gonadal adipose tissue. These data suggest that deletion of 11β-HSD1 in high fat-fed, but not chow-fed, male mice protects from age-related insulin resistance and supports a metabolically favourable fat distribution.

Open access

Ying Sze, Joana Fernandes, Zofia M Kołodziejczyk, and Paula J Brunton

Stress during pregnancy negatively affects the fetus and increases the risk for affective disorders in adulthood. Excess maternal glucocorticoids are thought to mediate fetal programming; however, whether they exert their effects directly or indirectly remains unclear. During pregnancy, protective mechanisms including maternal hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis hyporesponsiveness and placental 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (11βHSD) type 2, which inactivates glucocorticoids, limit mother-to-fetus glucocorticoid transfer. However, whether repeated stress negatively impacts these mechanisms is not known. Pregnant rats were exposed to repeated social stress on gestational days (GD) 16–20 and several aspects of HPA axis and glucocorticoid regulation, including concentrations of glucocorticoids, gene expression for their receptors (Nr3c1, Nr3c2), receptor chaperones (Fkbp51, Fkbp52) and enzymes that control local glucocorticoid availability (Hsd11b1, Hsd11b2), were investigated in the maternal, placental and fetal compartments on GD20. The maternal HPA axis was activated following stress, though the primary driver was vasopressin, rather than corticotropin-releasing hormone. Despite the stress-induced increase in circulating corticosterone in the dams, only a modest increase was detected in the circulation of female fetuses, with no change in the fetal brain of either sex. Moreover, there was no change in the expression of genes that mediate glucocorticoid actions or modulate local concentrations in the fetal brain. In the placenta labyrinth zone, stress increased Hsd11b2 expression only in males and Fkbp51 expression only in females. Our results indicate that any role glucocorticoids play in fetal programming is likely indirect, perhaps through sex-dependent alterations in placental gene expression, rather than exerting effects via direct crossover into the fetal brain.

Open access

Carmen Corciulo, Julia M Scheffler, Piotr Humeniuk, Alicia Del Carpio Pons, Alexandra Stubelius, Ula Von Mentzer, Christina Drevinge, Aidan Barrett, Sofia Wüstenhagen, Matti Poutanen, Claes Ohlsson, Marie K Lagerquist, and Ulrika Islander

Among patients with knee osteoarthritis (OA), postmenopausal women are over-represented. The purpose of this study was to determine whether deficiency of female sex steroids affects OA progression and to evaluate the protective effect of treatment with a physiological dose of 17β-estradiol (E2) on OA progression using a murine model. Ovariectomy (OVX) of female mice was used to mimic a postmenopausal state. OVX or sham-operated mice underwent surgery for destabilization of the medial meniscus (DMM) to induce OA. E2 was administered in a pulsed manner for 2 and 8 weeks. OVX of OA mice did not influence the cartilage phenotype or synovial thickness, while both cortical and trabecular subchondral bone mineral density (BMD) decreased after OVX compared with sham-operated mice at 8 weeks post-DMM surgery. Additionally, OVX mice displayed decreased motor activity, reduced threshold of pain sensitivity, and increased number of T cells in the inguinal lymph nodes compared to sham-operated mice 2 weeks after OA induction. Eight weeks of treatment with E2 prevented cartilage damage and thickening of the synovium in OVX OA mice. The motor activity was improved after E2 replacement at the 2 weeks time point, which was also associated with lower pain sensitivity in the OA paw. E2 treatment protected against OVX-induced loss of subchondral trabecular bone. The number of T cells in the inguinal lymph nodes was reduced by E2 treatment after 8 weeks. This study demonstrates that treatment with a physiological dose of E2 exerts a protective role by reducing OA symptoms.

Open access

Ryan A Lafferty, Laura M McShane, Zara J Franklin, Peter R Flatt, Finbarr P M O’Harte, and Nigel Irwin

Discerning modification to the amino acid sequence of native glucagon can generate specific glucagon receptor (GCGR) antagonists, that include desHis1Pro4Glu9-glucagon and the acylated form desHis1Pro4Glu9(Lys12PAL)-glucagon. In the current study, we have evaluated the metabolic benefits of once-daily injection of these peptide-based GCGR antagonists for 18 days in insulin-resistant high-fat-fed (HFF) mice with streptozotocin (STZ)-induced insulin deficiency, namely HFF-STZ mice. Administration of desHis1Pro4Glu9-glucagon moderately (P < 0.05) decreased STZ-induced elevations of food intake. Body weight was not different between groups of HFF-STZ mice and both treatment interventions delayed (P < 0.05) the onset of hyperglycaemia. The treatments reduced (P < 0.05–P < 0.001) circulating and pancreatic glucagon, whilst desHis1Pro4Glu9(Lys12PAL)-glucagon also substantially increased (P < 0.001) pancreatic insulin stores. Oral glucose tolerance was appreciably improved (P < 0.05) by both antagonists, despite the lack of augmentation of glucose-stimulated insulin release. Interestingly, positive effects on i.p. glucose tolerance were less obvious suggesting important beneficial effects on gut function. Metabolic benefits were accompanied by decreased (P < 0.05–P < 0.01) locomotor activity and increases (P < 0.001) in energy expenditure and respiratory exchange ratio in both treatment groups. In addition, desHis1Pro4Glu9-glucagon increased (P < 0.01–P < 0.001) O2 consumption and CO2 production. Together, these data provide further evidence that peptidic GCGR antagonists are effective treatment options for obesity-driven forms of diabetes, even when accompanied by insulin deficiency.

Open access

Shun-Neng Hsu, Louise A Stephen, Scott Dillon, Elspeth Milne, Behzad Javaheri, Andrew A Pitsillides, Amanda Novak, Jose Luis Millán, Vicky E MacRae, Katherine A Staines, and Colin Farquharson

Patients with advanced chronic kidney disease (CKD) often present with skeletal abnormalities, a condition known as renal osteodystrophy (ROD). While tissue non-specific alkaline phosphatase (TNAP) and PHOSPHO1 are critical for bone mineralization, their role in the etiology of ROD is unclear. To address this, ROD was induced in both WT and Phospho1 knockout (P1KO) mice through dietary adenine supplementation. The mice presented with hyperphosphatemia, hyperparathyroidism, and elevated levels of FGF23 and bone turnover markers. In particular, we noted that in CKD mice, bone mineral density (BMD) was increased in cortical bone (P  < 0.05) but decreased in trabecular bone (P  < 0.05). These changes were accompanied by decreased TNAP (P  < 0.01) and increased PHOSPHO1 (P  < 0.001) expression in WT CKD bones. In P1KO CKD mice, the cortical BMD phenotype was rescued, suggesting that the increased cortical BMD of CKD mice was driven by increased PHOSPHO1 expression. Other structural parameters were also improved in P1KO CKD mice. We further investigated the driver of the mineralization defects, by studying the effects of FGF23, PTH, and phosphate administration on PHOSPHO1 and TNAP expression by primary murine osteoblasts. We found both PHOSPHO1 and TNAP expressions to be downregulated in response to phosphate and PTH. The in vitro data suggest that the TNAP reduction in CKD-MBD is driven by the hyperphosphatemia and/or hyperparathyroidism noted in these mice, while the higher PHOSPHO1 expression may be a compensatory mechanism. Increased PHOSPHO1 expression in ROD may contribute to the disordered skeletal mineralization characteristic of this progressive disorder.